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Ruggiero Boscovich’s Theory of Natural Philosophy

Points, Distances, Determinations

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  • © 2020


  • Provides the most comprehensive historical reconstruction to date of Boscovich’s Theory of Natural Philosophy
  • Presents new insights on Boscovich’s influence on later developments in physics
  • Includes a study on Boscovich’s relation to Newton, Leibniz and their schools

Part of the book series: Science Networks. Historical Studies (SNHS, volume 60)

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About this book

Drawing on published works, correspondence and manuscripts, this book offers the most comprehensive reconstruction of Boscovich’s theory within its historical context. It explains the genesis and theoretical as well as epistemological underpinnings in light of the Jesuit tradition to which Boscovich belonged, and contrasts his ideas with those of Newton, Leibniz, and their legacy. Finally, it debates crucial issues in early-modern physical science such as the concept of force, the particle-like structure of matter, the idea of material points and the notion of continuity, and shares novel insights on Boscovich’s alleged influence on later developments in physics.

With its attempt to reduce all natural forces to one single law, Boscovich’s Theory of Natural Philosophy, published in 1758, left a lasting impression on scientists and philosophers of every age regarding the fundamental unity of physical phenomena. The theory argues that every pair of material points is subject toone mutual force — and always the same force — which is their propensity to be mutually attracted or repelled, depending on their distance from one another. Furthermore, the action of this unique force is visualized through a famous diagram that fascinated generations of scientists. But his understanding of key terms of the theory — such as the notion of force involved and the very idea of a material point — is only ostensibly similar to our current conceptual framework. Indeed, it needs to be clarified within the plurality of contexts in which it has emerged rather than being considered in view of later developments.

The book is recommended for scholars and students interested in the ideas of the early modern period, especially historians and philosophers of science, mathematicians and physicists with an interest in the history of the discipline, and experts on Jesuit science and philosophy.

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Table of contents (6 chapters)


“This text has to be considered a good and original contribution to the history of science. … I have offered a detailed synthesis of this book because it represents an example of a remarkable piece of history and philosophy of science … .” (Paolo Bussotti, zbMATH 1490.01002, 2022)

“Guzzardi’s book is an erudite and absorbing account of Boscovich’s scientific career and thought. The book documents in impressive detail Boscovich’s ‘powerful mix of (meta)physical speculation and mathematics’ as it emerged in the religious and intellectual setting of his time. … The book is also informative about the work over the past several decades of other historians of science who have contributed to Boscovich studies.” (Craig G. Fraser, Mathematical Reviews, December, 2021)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dipartimento di Filosofia, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy

    Luca Guzzardi

About the author

Luca Guzzardi is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Milan, Italy. His main interests are in the integrated history and philosophy of science. 

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Ruggiero Boscovich’s Theory of Natural Philosophy

  • Book Subtitle: Points, Distances, Determinations

  • Authors: Luca Guzzardi

  • Series Title: Science Networks. Historical Studies

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Birkhäuser Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-52092-2Published: 01 September 2020

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-52095-3Published: 01 September 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-52093-9Published: 31 August 2020

  • Series ISSN: 1421-6329

  • Series E-ISSN: 2296-6080

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XXII, 198

  • Number of Illustrations: 14 b/w illustrations, 8 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: History of Science, History and Philosophical Foundations of Physics, History of Mathematical Sciences, History of Philosophy

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